DEA urged to expedite rules for telemedicine prescribing

April 2024

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BCHC signed onto a letter submitted by the Alliance for Connected Care to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) about the telemedicine flexibilities that were advanced last year.

More than 200 organizations signed onto the letter requesting the DEA expedite the release of a revised proposed rule to permit and regulate the prescribing of controlled substances through telehealth.

The updated rules should be proposed immediately for the following reasons:

  • Given the complexity of these issues and the significant stakeholder interest (as demonstrated through more than 38,000 public comments received by DEA on proposed rules), DEA must plan to ensure stakeholders have adequate time to provide feedback on any policy proposal.
  • If DEA were to create a special registration process for telehealth prescribers, as proposed by both DEA and many stakeholders, significant operational lead time would be needed for DEA, practitioners, pharmacies, and other related service providers to implement the new special registration process and comply with other potential operational requirements and guardrails.
  • Given widespread provider shortages, particularly in the mental health and substance use disorder treatment spaces, a rulemaking late in the year that makes significant policy changes would affect the ability of patients and clinicians to make appointments and ensure consistent access to care. While we hope the final rulemaking preserves patient access, any policy change that requires patients to seek in-person care would be extremely disruptive due to long scheduling lead times and in-office wait times.
  • In addition to operational and implementation challenges for clinicians, there will be significant operational and staff training needs for pharmacies and other parts of the healthcare delivery system to ensure patients uninterrupted access to needed medical treatments offered through telehealth.
  • Finally, DEA’s national leadership is needed to set a clear path forward for the nation and to encourage more consistent definitions and aligned requirements from state regulatory bodies. Alignment of requirements is needed to simplify compliance for healthcare providers and encourage telehealth providers to offer care in our nations most underserved areas – without geographic barriers such as state lines limiting access to care.

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